New Senate Bill Addresses Loophole that Enabled Russian-Backed Ads in 2016 Election

October 19, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Lawmakers in the Senate introduced a bill today that would revisit campaign finance law in the internet age. The legislation seeks to address a loophole that allowed Russian entities to purchase political ads on major social media platforms ahead of the 2016 election without detection.

The Honest Ads Act of 2017 was introduced by Sens. Klobuchar (D-Minn), McCain (R-AZ), and Warner (D-VA). The bill is Congress’ first response to calls to prevent hostile foreign powers or their operatives from purchasing political ads on the internet in future American elections. 

Under the legislation, political activity online would become subject to the same kind of disclosure rules that currently apply to political advertisements in radio or TV. The bill would do this by expanding the definition of “electioneering communications” under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which failed to include paid political advertisements online. This expanded definition will bar more foreign spending, since foreign nationals are prohibited from making electioneering communications. The Honest Ads Act would also increase transparency by requiring social media companies to establish a public database of paid political advertisements.

While responding to the threat of foreign interference will take a multipronged effort, this bipartisan proposal is an important first step towards protecting our democracy from election meddling in the future.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Beatriz Aldereguia at (646) 292-8369 or beatriz.aldereguia@nyu.edu

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